President Donald Trump called Wednesday for repealing the Obamacare individual mandate in a tax overhaul, a day before House GOP leaders planned to unveil a bill without that provision.

In a pair of tweets, Trump said: “Wouldn’t it be great to Repeal the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate in ObamaCare and use those savings for further Tax Cuts for the Middle Class. The House and Senate should consider ASAP as the process of final approval moves along.”
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Here’s a strange paradox: Health-care costs have increased by an unsustainable rate of about 8.5% each year over the past decade, according to PwC’s Health Research Institute. Already, the average employer-based family health insurance plans costs more than $18,000 annually.

But Medicare spending has been relatively stable. Over the past three years, the program’s payouts to hospitals have increased by only 1% to 3% a year, roughly even with inflation. The prices paid for some core services, such as ambulance transportation, have actually gone down.

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The Oct. 26 editorial “Health-care reform that pays off” unfairly maligned a bill introduced by two committee chairmen as “dismantling major pieces of Obamacare.” It does nothing of the sort.

Like the bill proposed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that the editorial praised, a bill from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) would appropriate money for cost-sharing-reduction subsidies. That’s not nearly enough to provide relief to consumers, who are leaving health-insurance markets in droves. Gallup reported that the uninsurance rate in the third quarter of 2017 reached its highest level since 2014, as the Affordable Care Act makes insurance unaffordable.

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Federal health officials are proposing changes to rules for coverage sold through the ACA’s insurance marketplaces that, starting in 2019, would let states alter the benefits that health plans must provide and limit enrollment help for consumers. In envisioning a larger role for states in setting benefits, the draft rule would still require ACA plans to cover 10 categories of medical services. But for the first time, any state could adopt benefits standards already in use by another state—or rewrite its own standards.

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The Trump administration on Friday proposed new health insurance regulations that could affect basic benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, but not for a couple of years.

Loosening “Obamacare” benefit requirements was a major sticking point for congressional Republicans in thus-far fruitless efforts to repeal the law.

The complex new plan from the administration would give states a potential path to easing some requirements.
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President Trump’s decisions on cost-sharing subsidies have contributed to the law’s rising premiums and the resulting rise in subsidies. But he’s not responsible for all of this. Competition, for example, took a big hit last year — when President Obama was still in charge.

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The Affordable Care Act seems here to stay, including its incentives for health-care industry consolidation. Big Government drives bigger business. The latest evidence is CVS Health Corp.’s mooted $66 billion bid for insurer Aetna Inc., as companies look for ways to make money beyond being regulated utilities.

Data released this week from data.healthcare.gov show that choice in the types of plans available on the Exchanges continued to diminish between 2017 and 2018. There has been diminished choice in the number of insurers and level of competition. In 2017,142 of the 420 rating areas on which data.healthcare.gov maintains information had just one issuer. For 2018, 179 of the rating areas will have just one issuer.

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When the GOP released their “Framework” for tax reform last month, official Washington got excited that they could finally chew on all sorts of wonky tax details. They will get even more excited when the full package is out this week. That’s why it was very disappointing to read that Senate Finance Committee Republicans were considering keeping the death tax in place.

That would be a grievous error.
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It took longer than expected, but the Trump administration finally moved earlier this month to provide broad exemptions to the Obama administration’s notorious HHS contraceptive mandate. The mandate requires employers sponsoring health-insurance plans to cover contraceptives, including some products that induce abortions, for all workers enrolled in their plans. The Trump administration issued two interim final regulations providing ready pathways for employers with religious or moral objections to get out from under the requirement.

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